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Game Review #160: Riot: Civil Unrest (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Chad M.

Developer: Leonard Menchiari, IV Productions

Publisher: Merge Games

Category: Simulation, Strategy 

Release Date: 02.05.2019

Price (at time of review): $19.99

Buy Riot: Civil Unrest (digitally) from the Nintendo eShop here.

Buy Riot: Civil Unrest (physically, regular) from Amazon here.

Buy Riot: Civil Unrest (physically, CE) from Signature Edition Games here.

Take My Games And We Will Riot

As the eShop grows we see more devs willing to try to push the envelope, going to new places and creating things we haven’t seen before. Leonard Menchiari is one of those developers that felt passionately enough about a project to work to make sure it saw the light of day. He himself had experienced the rioting firsthand at the NoTAV protests in Italy. He worked to create this game to take a deeper look at these clashes. So to give the game everything it needed, Leonard went to crowdfunding through an Indiegogo campaign, raising over 36k to not only develop the game, but also for travel and research. He went to active protests and riots to talk to both sides to get a real, authentic perspective to put into the game. 

That’s what we have with Riot: Civil Unrest published by Merge Games. The second I heard about the game and began seeing screenshots and hearing rumbling all the way to Signature Editions doing a collector’s edition, I was very hyped to get my hands on this one. I thought the idea of a real-time simulator of riots - and real, historic ones at that - would be something to really see. Let’s find out!

Do You Serve The People Or Are You The People?

In the riots you have the choice play as the rioters or the police. Immediately, I was conflicted as coming from a military family that has members on the police force I’ve never even thought of going against a cop or protesting let alone taking part in a riot. Most of the times when I hear of a riot it’s over a sports team’s parade that has gotten out of hand but as things heat up politically and socially in our world we know this isn’t something that we can turn a blind eye to.

So I first jumped in as a rioter, before the scene begins it informs you in detail why this actual protest happened and what they were fighting for. This definitely laid foundation as to why someone would do something that could turn so violent even if it wasn’t something I could agree with. Playing as the rioters I went through the main campaign that was 16 levels that split over four different scenarios taking me from Greece, Italy, Spain and then to Egypt. Playing as the rioters I felt under-gunned and outmatched most of the time even if we had quadruple the numbers of the police. But it wasn’t about over-powering the police but rather outsmarting them; inciting rage when needed, and then pulling back and trying to calm situations by sitting in and forming lines. Now later on I did set some paper bombs and lit a few fires but I never felt well-equipped.

However, this is supposed to be what the rioters had so you’re stuck with that. 

Then I came back in on my second go around and I selected the police to see the game through their eyes. I will say I liked playing as the police more and not because of my personal feeling, but they seemed to be easier to control as the rioters felt a little more scattered and not so tactical as the police. Of course as the police you are armed with guns, batons, and shields to name a few items, whereas the rioters may get a firecracker... yes, a firecracker against a military grade grenade launcher shooting out tear gas. Again you can choose to be aggressive or passive in how you choose to handle the event. You can call in police trucks, water cannons, and even a tank. The police can even go as far as to use deadly force using live ammunition on the rioters if necessary.

We Must Maintain Control

So this will definitely be the section that I let out where my frustrations were with the game. The controls were not always as responsive as I wanted them to be and it felt pretty wonky most of the time like I was just winging it. I don’t think it helps that there is no tutorial so you are thrown into the deep to feast or famine. I kept having trouble selecting the right group of rioters/police and when making them do what I wanted it seemed like a complete crap shoot. I’m not one for hand holding when I play my games, but I really didn’t know if being aggressive was the right move or being more passive would be better, so I left my entire experience to trial and error. Even throwing things seemed very iffy as I had a hard time controlling the trajectory of the projectiles. Overall my time playing was split as I’d get frustrated not understanding why my rioters were acting that way when I directed them to be the exact opposite. The other half of the time was fun, but it just was never consistent while playing it throughout.

We Won’t Take it! - Audio & Visuals

I spoke on the campaign, but you also have a story mode to play through that has 32 levels that will also take you to places like Rome, Oakland, Paris, London and Ukraine. There is also a versus mode where you can jump in against the AI or play a friend in a local match. As I said before the controls and gameplay left me wanting a little more from the experience as I kept playing by trial and error. 

The audio was done well. I enjoyed the music as I felt it set the tone and the sound effects were well placed but nothing that blew me away. On the other hand I really like the look of the game. I read that the game’s art design was inspired by a game I previously reviewed called Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP that has top notch visuals done in 8-bit retro pixel art. Riot uses the same 8-bit retro pixel style and it looks great, but with all the madness sometimes it can look a little crazy. Overall, I still really enjoyed what they went for in the art design. 

It’s A Wrap!!!

My time spent with Riot: Civil Unrest was a mixed bag. The controls, lack of direction, and some gameplay elements left me feeling a little underwhelmed. But the story, art style, and the underlying message is what I did enjoy a lot. I wanted to love the game as I had anticipated, but after my playthrough I was left liking it instead. I hope that the team behind the game can maybe work to strengthen parts that could make the experience less of a chore and allow you to fully immerse yourself as all the parts are here for a solid, original game. 

Score: 6/10

Buy Riot: Civil Unrest (digitally) from the Nintendo eShop here.

Buy Riot: Civil Unrest (physically, regular) from Amazon here.

Buy Riot: Civil Unrest (physically, CE) from Signature Edition Games here.

Follow Leonard Menchiari

Follow IV Productions


Follow Merge Games




*Review Code Provided by Terminals

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